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Magazines > Information Today > February 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 2 — February 2003
NEWSBREAKS UPDATE
New Developments in Search Engines, Copyright, and More
By Paula Hane

The main focus of our attention over the last month or so has definitely been the sad state of affairs at RoweCom/divine and the ensuing panic among its library and publisher creditors. We monitored the listservs and press releases and also followed telephone and e-mail contacts to chase the developing situation as reported in several NewsBreaks on our Web site. The summary of what we knew at press time is reported on p. 1.

The ramifications of this will be huge—even if by some miracle all the subscription money is recovered and sent on to the publishers. The trust between librarians and subscription vendors has evaporated. After the RoweCom/divinedebacle, many libraries are considering direct subscriptions, despite the hassles that might entail.

Search Engine News

This has been an unusually busy time for search engine news, including ongoing rumors about a possible Google IPO. In the January 2003 NewsLink, I covered Fast Search & Transfer's (FAST) enhancement of its AlltheWeb showcase site (http://www.infotoday.com/newslink/newslink0301.htm).

One exciting development is the official launch of eBizSearch (http://www.ebizsearch.org), a new, specialized engine that Web search guru Gary Price has called a "must see." eBizSearch finds and indexes documents about e-business, e-commerce, and closely related topics. It crawls the Web sites of universities, commercial organizations, research institutes, and government departments to retrieve and catalog academic articles, working papers, consulting reports, magazine articles, and published statistical facts.

eBizSearch was developed by the eBusiness Research Center at Penn State's Smeal College of Business. "Focused and specialized search engines like eBizSearch will be some of the most important of future search technologies," said Lee Giles, associate director of research at the eBusiness Research Center.

Giles was one of the creators of CiteSeer (http://citeseer.nj.nec.com/cs), the popular computer science search engine that is now known as ResearchIndex. Thisautonomous citation-indexing tool uses machine learning and domain-specific algorithms. eBizSearch is based on the CiteSeer technology platform.

Rather than sifting through reams of potentially irrelevant information, eBizSearch focuses tightly on relevant data. This feature makes its results more productive for those who are interested in e-business. Users can search by document keywords as well as by citation. The citations' context is displayed so that a user can immediately discern the impact of the work. The search engine was also blazingly fast in my sample tests.

HotBot's Hot

Terra Lycos launched an entirely new version of HotBot that includes a new interface and customization features. With its addition of Google and Teoma—and its previously offered FAST and Inktomi—the engine now conveniently connects users to the four primary search catalogs on the Internet. HotBot allows users to type in a search term once and then choose a catalog. After reviewing the results, they can then retrieve any of the other catalogs' results with just one click.

HotBot's new features let searchers build a custom home page that contains the advanced search filters they designate, select how they want search results formatted and presented, and "skin HotBot" using cascading style sheets. The HotBot home page does not have any advertisements; contextual ads are presented on the results pages.

A Lycos representative said that specialty catalogs, such as Google's News Search, were deliberately not included at the new version's launch to keep HotBot clean and simple. However, some might be added in the future. HotBot does not provide a simultaneous metasearch capability, since this would remove control from the user. In his SearchDay newsletter, Chris Sherman said the "newly reinvigorated HotBot has regained its position as an essential tool for all serious Web searchers."

Googling

The folks at Google, who are never long without an announcement, rolled out a beta version of Froogle (http://froogle.google.com), a new shopping search tool. Froogle does not sell products or promote partner stores within the search results. By focusing entirely on product search, it applies the power of Google's search technology to a very specific task: locating stores that sell the item users want to find and pointing them directly to the store to purchase it. Froogle ranks store sites based only on their relevance to the search terms.

In other news, Google has filed for the dismissal of a lawsuit that was brought against the company. Search King sued Google last fall, claiming that the engine had arbitrarily reduced page rankings for its Web sites, thereby leading to financial losses. While some have suggested that Search King just sued to gain publicity, Chris Sherman pointed to some interesting commentary about the issues involved in online law, including the argument of First Amendment protection for Google's PageRank (see http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0113-google-suit.html).

Yahoo!

Yahoo!, Inc. announced an agreement to acquire Inktomi for approximately $235 million. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval and the approval of Inktomi's stockholders. The companies expect to complete the deal in the first quarter of this year.

Inktomi recently sold its enterprise search software business to Verity so it can focus on Web search and its paid-inclusion business (see the NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb021118-1.htm). Inktomi had also made "significant improvements" in its overall Web search capability, including increasedrelevance, a fresher and larger index, paid inclusion, the utilization of an XML interface, and features targeted at understanding user intent for Web interactions. Inktomi had been a search provider for Yahoo! a few years ago until Google took over that role.

Some are saying that the deal sets the stage for a shake-up—or at least strategic repositioning—in the search engine world. In particular, it puts pressure on Google, which has been Yahoo!'s search technology supplier since 2000. Inktomi in turn has been the supplier for Microsoft's MSN service. We could soon see some interesting developments in Web search.

JSTOR News

Things have been busy at the offices of JSTOR, the nonprofit organization foundedin 1995 to create, maintain, and provide access to important scholarly journals. JSTOR announced the completion of its Arts & Sciences II Collection with the introduction of 47 new titles. Released in stages over the past 18 months, Arts & Sciences II is a collection that contains the digitized archives of 122 journals in many disciplines, including history; economics; Asian studies; classics; history of science; archeology; geography; and African, Latin American, Slavic, and Middle Eastern studies.

Arts & Sciences II is one of six journal collections in the JSTOR archive, along with Arts & Sciences I, Business, Ecology& Botany, General Science, and Language & Literature. JSTOR offers the complete back runs of 322 journals in 26 disciplines. The archive can be accessed from more than 1,500 academic and research libraries in 71 countries.

The JSTOR archive is now also available to younger students as a result of a successful 2-year pilot project at 16 public and private high schools in the U.S.According to the announcement from JSTOR, the project demonstrated JSTOR's benefits for high school students and waswell-received by educators who found value in the historical depth and interdisciplinary perspectives of the archive's material.U.S. high schools can license access to all of JSTOR's six collections.

Copyright News in Brief

• Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the creative reuse of intellectual works, announced the launch of machine-readable copyright licenses. These licenses, available free of charge from http://www.creativecommons.org, allow copyright holders to easily inform others that their works can be freely copied and used under specific conditions. (See the NewsBreak about the organization's plans at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb020603-2.htm.)

• Afederal jury has acquitted the Russian company ElcomSoft, which had been accused of digital piracy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Stephanie C. Ardito covered the case in her November 2001 and March 2002 Legal Issues columns. ElcomSoft produced a decryption program that could modify or eliminate the security protection on Adobe e-books.

• U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has reintroduced in the new 108th Congress a bill that seeks to amend the DMCA. Known as the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, the legislation aims to protect the fair use rights of those who use copyrighted material. TheALA's Washington Office is urging members to contact their representatives about signing on as sponsors. Details about the bill are available on the ALA site
(http://www.ala.org/washoff/copyright.html#Boucher).

• The World Intellectual Property Organization has released a new report titled "Intellectual Property on the Internet: A Survey of Issues" (http://ecommerce.wipo.int/survey).

• As this issue went to press, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, a 1998 law that extends copyright protection by 20 years.

The M&A Scene

Thomson Corp. announced that it has acquired Delphion Research, a full-text patent research tool that serves professional researchers and businesses worldwide, from privately held Delphion, Inc. for a purchase price of approximately $22 million.

Delphion Research offers full-text patent documents from leading patent authorities: the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Office, World Intellectual Property Organization, and Japan Patent Information Office. It also provides access to the International Patent Document Center patent collection. This comprehensive collection delivers seamless access to more than 35 million records from 70 patent offices worldwide.

Delphion Research will become part ofThomson's Scientific group. It will be headed by Bob Smith, who is with the current Delphion management team. Delphion, Inc. will continue to own and manage its other software development and services businesses.

Goodbye to Fathom.com

On March 31, Columbia University plans to close Fathom.com, its money-losing online learning portal. Fathom offered digital content from Columbia and 13 other academic and cultural institutions. The site also provided for-a-fee access to thousands of online courses and knowledge products, including XanEdu CoursePacks. It offered free seminars andfree access to articles, interviews, lectures, and reference materials.

We reported the launch in an April 2000 NewsBreak (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb000410-1.htm) and noted the impending closure last month (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb030113-2.htm). According to The Wall Street Journal, "The closure marks yet another failure of efforts by colleges and universities to cash in on the once-sizzling dot-com craze by offering courses and other learning opportunities over the Internet." It may take a significant upturn in the economy as well as a new public attitude toward the value of quality educational content to enable the success of a for-profit online venture.

For the latest industry news, check http://www.infotoday.com every Monday morning. An easier option is to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter, NewsLink, which provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.

 


Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is phane@infotoday.com.
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